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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

WHEN I WAS A YOUNG GIRL

When I was a child I was obsessed with playing. It never was enough. I played uninhibitedly with a group of friends during the primary stage of my schooling. Our most favored past time was playing house. We would collect bricks and each one would make a square with them for demarcation. There were many Neem (Azadirachta Indica ) trees around. Its fruit oval shaped and green served as a vegetable and a fruit. We would bring salt from our home and wet the Neem fruit with our saliva and after touching it with salt put it in our mouths, roll it inside till the salt was sucked in. This exercise would go on endlessly. The small branches of the Neem would be tied to act as a broom to do mock sweeping. Buying and selling transactions were also gone through with one of us acting as a vegetable vendor and the other as a buyer.

cartoon courtesy: internet
As we grew up, another diversion was added to our daily evening calendar. Skipping rope became our new favorite. A loosely suspended rope was held at its ends by two members of the group standing appropriately apart, who swung it in a circular motion. Other girls stood in a queue and would enter one by one when the rope went up and be prepared to jump when it came down and leave quickly for the next girl to take her turn at jumping. It was a single jump and extreme alertness was required to enter at the right moment. The skipper who failed to make it would hold the rope and the other girl would join the skippers. We played it for hours together because of the continuous excitement it generated.

Another one of which we were never tired of playing was ‘Hide and Seek.’ One of us would count up to stipulated ten or twenty with closed eyes while others would dash to hide under beds or behind cupboards, boxes and piles of wood in the courtyard. Our hearts would race when the seeker would be on the verge of locating but missed and in the end somebody would be found out to the spontaneous screams of joy emanating from all. The game would start all over again with the same enthusiasm and zest till late evening. We didn’t mind hiding in the dirtiest of places and neglected nooks and corners full of grime and dust. I marvel at my mother’s patience who would wash my soiled clothes clean without a hint of reprimand.

Later my insatiable desire to play discovered another outlet .I would sneak out after lunch when everybody was resting in summers. I would go out to a friend’s house that had a game of ‘Snakes and Ladders’ and played it to our heart’s content till evening .On reaching home mother would be very angry and slap me sometimes because she wanted me to lend her a helping hand in looking after my two younger siblings while she prepared dinner. Irrespective of scolding I could not control this sneaking out for quite sometime.

During one of these afternoon rendezvous my friend took me to a house where there was a Ber (Indian Berry) tree. Finding so many ripe one’s we started aiming at them with whatever we laid our hands on. We succeeded in dislodging a few. Out came the lady of the house uttering expletives and we beat a hasty retreat while cursing the lady from the core of our hearts.

Those were heavenly days and we children were innocent to a fault. Our mothers would scream at us but we never heeded them and kept on indulging in our games till we were tired and hungry.

Soon I was in high school and old girly games stopped altogether.

The remembrances of those days take me back in time and I relive the innocence and purity of the magical days gone by.

.

Monday, December 26, 2011

BEST WISHES FOR THE NEW YEAR

MY DEAR BLOG FRIENDS:

Now that the Christmas fervour is over, count down for the New Year has begun.
Congratulations and wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. (2012)
The year 2011 had been momentous in so many ways. Totalitarian regimes have been overthrown in the Arab world by the people power, but the saddest part was that there was blood shed. So many innocent lives were lost. There was wide spread destruction, arson, looting and untold pain and suffering. I wish sanity had prevailed, and all this had not happened.

Then economic meltdown has caused recession and fears globally. Unemployment has risen and people’s purchasing power has declined. Economic growth has plummeted causing serious repercussions.

There were wide spread protests in Wall Street, New York. Americans were fuming as the disparity between rich and poor is widening because of the unregulated working of the financial markets, where unscrupulous elements thrive at the cost of general public.

In our country crusade against the scourge of corruption is on, spearheaded by civil society members led by social activist Anna Hazare and his team. His armour of support is the young, who are discontented and disillusioned and see a bleak future for themselves.

This was the worst year of scams. Every day a new scam is unearthed. There is confusion galore and solutions to raging problems seem to be eluding us.

A spark was ignited in the collective psyche of India when our cricket team won the world cup after a gap of 25 years. But it could not retain the bonhomie for long.

Most of the year dark clouds of corruption, misgovernance and indecisiveness in administrative set up at all levels, loomed large dampening our spirits all along.

The concept of trust among individuals, between the citizens and the government and among different nations has eroded. Credibility is at all time low. The chasm between saying and doing has reached a breaking point. Cynicism has set in. Thinkers and intellectuals must figure a way out of this morass.

Let's hope that New year may breathe in a vision of better life for all, a promise of commitment to truth and honesty, a pledge to talk less and achieve more, a resolve to help the less advantaged fulfill their dreams, a belief in forgiveness and tolerance, a desire to find amicable solutions to problems through understanding, and finally a vow to put service before self in all our endeavours. We ought to make all these a part of our new year resolutions to save the planet earth for our progeny.

All said and done, we should never lose sight of our aspirations and dreams for the future. Things will surely turn around. It is hope that makes life go. :)


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

CHRISTMAS GREETINGS


Dear friends all over the globe: Christmas is round the corner and I wish you all a great, wonderful and joyous Christmas!!! : )
Santa Claus in his velvety red and white attire, with his long tailed woolly cap, is on his way from the snowy mountains, sitting majestically on his reindeer driven sleigh, overflowing with eye catching gift packets, containing love, happiness, benevolence, rapprochements, reunions and tons of other assorted goodies to bless us with, on this auspicious day. The very image of Santa spells mirth, trust, childlike innocence and festive spirit. Soon the whole world will be celebrating Christmas by beautifully decorating their houses with lights, Christmas trees with toys and shimmering stars, attending special church services, singing Christmas carols- 'jingle bells' I adore- enjoying lavish meals and exchanging gifts with family and friends. The atmosphere will be soaked in joy, camaraderie and cheerfulness.
As in the west, so in big cities like Chandigarh, preparations are in full swing in business establishments to attract  customers and shops are being magnificently embellished with imaginative lighting designs to present a ‘come hither’ look. Holiday spirit already pervades the environment and people are having shopping sprees, eating out and visiting friends and relatives. Every body is in a joyful mood and having a blast of a time. :)
My mind, however, brings me back to Christ’s message of love, brotherhood and peace!

Post Script: Here is a beautiful poem "Ring out- Wild Bells" by Lord Tennyson about Christmas:
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.












Saturday, December 17, 2011

REMEMBERING MOTHER

Thinking of dear mother and missing her terribly on her death anniversary.  Here is a humble tribute!




Dear Ma! thy memories come flooding by.
Blissful it was, with you around,
The eternal pillar of potent power,
With a heart of gold nestling in a frail exterior.

Thy magic wand of love and sacrifice,
Ironed smooth the Furrows of life,
Secured our future from the stormy seas,
Forgiving and forgetting the painful slights.

Thy unwavering steely grip of selflessness,
Cared little for indifference and unconcern.
Thy hallowed greatness: courage and fearlessness,
Were of a life led righteously and truthfully.

And thy religiosity and commitments,
Forged ahead with dense purity of will.
Magnanimity of giving pervaded thy soul ,
Making it always the 'psalm of  life.'

Thy unseen presence uplifts, boosts and restores,
The weakened resolves within;
Thy fragrant vibes permeate my soul,
Enlivening, renewing and igniting a spark.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

SHINING INDIA?

Dear friends, excuse me if I lay bare certain facts. It so happened that we were to go to Delhi and got our seats reserved online in the morning train from Patiala. On the appointed day we readied to go to the railway station and a friend was waiting to drop us there. Before locking the house dear hubby wanted to make sure that the train was on time and switched on the Internet. To our disbelief the site showed the train as ‘cancelled.’ One or two frantic telephone calls and it got confirmed that it was actually cancelled. No clue why?

The alternative was to take the available bus. Our friend dropped us at the bus stop in the drizzling rain (the first winter rain, a boon for fledging wheat crop). But it was a virtual nightmare for us. Slush, slush and more slush. Every step was an effort. I wonder how people travel during rains. The bus stop was crowded (even at that hour) and mounds of garbage were spotted every where. Shopkeepers, fruit sellers, vendors and traveling public contribute equally to the mess. It smells horribly of decayed eatables and urine- yes urine - and all along the walls men urinate shamelessly and the smell wafts in the air.

We settled for an ordinary bus which was fully packed. All the people who were to go by train (the railway station is close by) rushed to board buses. Heaved a sigh, when the bus started and I could look right and left unobstructed being perched high above. I missed this sight for many years and the experience proved quite revealing about certain glaring realities of our lives.

The appalling scenario was, all pervading filth and littered garbage along the roads and in front of the shops which line the major part of the way. The shop owners clean the interiors but have no care about their immediate surroundings. Shop fronts are not even paved. Nauseating dirty wetness around tea shops and eating joints abound. Stray cattle, dogs and pigs roam freely causing scare. Only a few pockets comprising good hotels and government establishments, present a semblance of cleanliness. Otherwise the scene which catches your attention is heaps of waste here, there and everywhere. MCs of the respective cities seem to be dwelling in ivory towers somewhere.

Actually it mirrors our national character. The way we throw peels, plastic bottles, shells, snack containers and pouches out of the running cars and buses, unmindful of our civic duties, tell a sordid tale.

The crux of the problem, however, is absence of accountability and effective deterrents. The brashness of our multitudes is alarming. Masses are aware of their rights but ignore their responsibilities. Tolerance has reached nether levels. There is arson and destruction of nation’s wealth at the drop of a hat.

Our country is facing serious social unrest. The stage of our falling into the abyss of frustrations is imminent. What we need is drastic overhauling of our operational mechanisms. Authorities alone cannot achieve this gargantuan task. All of us should lend a helping hand to shake the sinking administrative machinery. Let’s step out of our safe and glassy cocoons and help frame policies to take up remedial measures at war footing.

There is no dearth of prudent and committed bureaucrats and corporate titans who could be requested to help out. The industry giants who made possible high economic growth and overall prosperity would surely invent methods to save India from becoming a nation of garbage. If this single job is done successfully, we can save our citizenry from contracting deadly diseases. It would ease our overburdened health services and many man days would be saved.

Another burning topic which continues to be sidetracked is our bourgeoning population. Anybody who loves his country will aver that without population control all our efforts for all round betterment will remain a pipe dream. The political class of our country has to rise above vote bank considerations and put in place measures to deal with the issue. If there is genuineness in its formulations nobody is going to oppose it. No sacrifice is big enough for the sake of the country.

*******.
A small hoarding at a wine shop in Panipat " Chield beer served here."

Sunday, December 4, 2011

LIVING ADVANTAGEOUSLY

An unpleasant friction occurs in our relationships when we become obsessively self- willed and rigid in our approach and try to impose our will on others. We look through the prism of our own limited world view. We resist different opinion and wish to have things our way. In the process we antagonize others, lose our calm, act unreasonably and end up working against our own interests.
Florence S Shinn of ‘The Game of Life and How to Play it’ says that resistance to natural scheme of things is hell. Rather than distrusting others, pledge full faith in them and speak positive affirmation, “Every man is a golden link in the chain of my good,” and will further the divine plan of my life.
It is in our nature to become tense and worried about some letter or call which has a bearing on our life. We spend tormenting hours waiting, for that letter or call, suspending our normal activities. Experience is a testimony that nature is our ally and we should have faith in the balancing act of the supreme power which is governing this universe. It is going to help us, get, what is ours according to the divine plan of things. Our letter or call will come at the right time.
The images of opulence, health and prosperity in our subconscious, get externalized in our life spontaneously by the natural law of attraction. Highs and lows are part of life and they are there to keep us in touch with the real world. Resisting situations, on which we’ve no control, create unnecessary stress and lead to expending of our vital energies on negativities. “Bless your enemy and you rob him of his ammunition.” Send goodwill to everyone. By the sheer power of your genuine blessings you will take from him the power to harm. Agree with your adversary and he will fall in place and even may befriend you.
There is a Chinese maxim which exhorts: Let life flow like water in a river. So many obstacles come in its way, but it flows placidly undisturbed. Instead of trying to change the personality of others we should try to change the obduracy in ourselves and give due regard to all. We should never lose sight of the ground realties and allow barriers erected by our egos to be demolished and then every righteous desire of the heart will be fulfilled. In Sikhism in the last verse of our most sacred prayer (Ardas) the blessings of the Almighty are invoked by singing: ‘God’s name is bliss and by His Grace everybody is blessed.’ “Nanak nam chardikala, tere bhane sarbat da bhla.”
God’s bountiful benedictions will be ours, if we pray for the good of all His creatures. This message, we need to remember for always!!!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

LESSONS FOR LIVING



For the past week I was feeling completely dry of writing fervour.  Just like an autumnal leaf shaken from the mother tree and flying with the force of wind before falling lifeless on the ground. Ideas got stuck some where. Refusing to be dislodged from their comfy state of inertia. I felt like an abandoned well. It was a thoroughly unpleasant situation. I longed to RECEIVE that famous 1 per cent inspiration to kindle the power of creative spirit.

And finally, that, I did get from an unexpected source. Long back I was gifted a small book, but somehow it remained hidden in between larger volumes and away from my gaze. Since I was bent upon getting initiated into writing my weekly blog post( it has become an integral part of me) I got to peruse it and found it wonderfully inspiring. Embellished as it was with nuggets of wisdom and pearls of spiritual strength capable of transforming  life completely.

The book in question is “The Game of Life and How to Play it” by Florence Scovel Shinn. It teaches spiritual enlightenment as well as a recipe for healthy, happy and prosperous life. At the outset she says,” Most people consider life a battle, but it is not a battle, it is a game”

To play this game successfully, the divine law of giving and receiving must be understood in a larger context. In the sense of the saying “As you sow, so shall you reap” e.g. by giving love you’ll receive love and by sending hate you’ll get hate. If you cheat you’d be cheated and if you lie you’d be lied to. In short life is a great lesson in boomerangs.

And that man should be extremely careful about his thoughts and his images in the mind. Your subconscious has a direct bearing on your actions and behavioral patterns in daily life situations and the state of your mental and physical well being. Remember people uttering silly insinuations or  abusive words and immediately realizing the impropriety, try to back track by saying: ‘Oh it was a slip of the tongue’ but actually in an unguarded moment the real feelings wriggled out. One day he/she surely will get paid  in the same coin.

Your mind is a great potent force and should be trained consciously to harbour healthy thoughts and send spiritual vibes of love and goodwill. Which will fill your life’s pathway with beauty, wealth and good sense? People will be attracted towards you, seek your help, confide in you and bless you

Thoughts of envy, anger, vengeance and being critical, poison the mind and body and sap joy out of life. Positive orientation and feelings of goodwill for all bring peace of mind and make life productive and meaningful.

You must have noticed around you, some people being much more successful than others. The secret is their attitude and faith in a power which guides us in our life’s journey. Such people keep on invoking the intervention of the ‘Infinite Spirit’ to supply them, which is rightfully theirs and wait patiently for the fruit of plenty in their lives and receive it when the time comes. Such people have keen intuitive power or hunch to act right. That is why it is said ‘always follow your heart’ it can never go wrong.

The writer lays tremendous emphasis upon the power of prayer soaked in deep faith (man must make the first move) and maintains that it should be worded very carefully to encompass the demands which you richly deserve and surely the flood gates of plenty will be opened for you.

“Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt.vii.7)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Glimpse of Life


To an observant eye, life offers a kaleidoscope of varied impressions. Some intense, some amusing and joyful and some saddening, but all leave an imprint on the subconscious, while enlightening us about the ways of the world in the process.

In the context of the above premise, I can’t help narrating a funny anecdote regarding a harmlessly deceptive angle associated with cell phone use. Some time back my hubby and I were volunteering at a group of educational institutions and were asked to contact one young man in case of any problem. In fact, problems, there were many. But the fellow was overburdened and stopped picking calls and later on when confronted in person, would make some excuse or the other. That didn’t work for long. The place was in the hills with limited space and there were frequent encounters. (Looking back I can understand his predicament being overwhelmed with work and unable to deliver.)

Then the poor fellow devised an ingenious ploy. On seeing us from a distance he’d turn his back and pretend to be talking on his cell. (I saw through his trick quite early, but started enjoying the scene.) Obviously there was no question of disturbing him though he certainly was faking to be in serious conversation. Naturally we‘d pass by, postponing to get something urgent fixed in our suite. This went on for quite some time. Later on, out of curiosity; I shared the finding with another couple who was facing a similar situation. Smilingly they corroborated being aware of the gimmick of the man but just ignored it because of his otherwise good manners and an important position in the set up.

Thank God he never came to know that we were aware of his trick because our job done, we left the place soon after.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Guru Nanak Dev ji's Birthday



Congratulations and good wishes to all on the sacred birth anniversary of Guru Nanak (1469-1539) the founder of Sikh faith. People’re thronging to various gurudwaras to pay their obeisance and listen to shabads (Guru-ki- bani rendered in musical compositions) and discourses on the life and teachings of the Guru .The celebrations will culminate in partaking of Langar (free kitchen),where all will sit together in rows and enjoy food ( which is taken as blissful) and return home feeing blessed. At night gurudwaras'll be decorated with lights and lamps, presenting a marvellous sight. People too will light candles and electric bulb strings to mark the occasion. The young also burst crackers.

xxxxx

Dear blog friends, I’ll be writing a piece on Guru Nanak’s tenets of philosophy which are based on the simple truths of life.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chandigarh Then and Now

There was a time when Chandigarh (French architect Le Corbusier’s dream project) a meticulously planned city, was open, peaceful, expansive, grand and lovely. You could walk without being disturbed by honking horns and deafening noise of the combo of vehicular traffic and people.
I’m referring to mid sixties when Chandigarh was in its infancy and cycling down to my college in sector 11 and later to the university used to be a pleasurable experience. Yes, cycle was the mode of transportation for most of the students, who were day scholars. Commuting by a rickshaw for a student was seen as being softy and unadventurous.
I don’t remember seeing any car on the road, only a few scooters.
In the university, love bytes were exchanged in the library (we had to spend much time there preparing notes.) The language of romance was the gleam in the eyes and mischief in the smiles and mutually devised nods implying volumes of meaning. Sadly there was no pillion riding on boyfriends’ mobikes and killing time sipping coffee and in spicy gossip sessions. Most of the girls’ were wary of going over board in such matters because of strong parental influence, hormones or no hormones.
Trend setting styles and hot couture hadn't caught the fancy of the students and our parents didn’t have money enough for us to splurge, as they had our siblings to support also.
Today student life has changed entirely. Students wear trendy, branded clothes and foot wear, and sport stylishly coiffured hair; are smart, intelligent, fully aware and well focused about their goals
Then there were only two fully developed shopping centers, Sector17 and 22. I purchased and got stitched my marriage trousseau from Sector17 and jewellery, crockery and other stuff from 22. There was the hotel Aroma, where the marriage party was put up. There was the Tagore Theater. That was all.
All the sectors’ve their own markets now. There’re exclusive stores for branded clothes and consumer goods and there is nothing which is available in the US and not here.
But Chandigarh’s taut and chiseled landscape has been furrowed. It is bursting at its seams. There is a mushroom growth of colonies around it and burgeoning migrant population to make a fast buck out of the pockets of the rich. Chandigarh’s limited infrastructure is overburdened with multiplying floating labour force. Who won’t aspire to be part of this “thing of beauty?” Needless to say, it has been messed up completely.
Crime rate has risen alarmingly. Not a day passes without news of chain snatching, day light robberies, deadly brawls, property disputes resulting in murders and old couples robbed and then brutally killed by their servants. Law enforcement agencies remain under tremendous strain. The city nestling in the Shivalik foothills has lost its virgin identity and is crying for a face lift.
I always loved to go to Chandigarh because it was the city of my youth. (After marriage I shifted to where my husband was.)But now I dread going there. One confronts traffic snarls, traffic jams and meandering movement of the vehicles all the time. From where‘d you get so much patience and how‘d you reach your destination on time? People buy cars without knowing the ABC of traffic rules. (They procure driving licenses somehow.)
The perennial traffic snarls are accentuated further as Chandigarh has become a favourite shopping destination for residents of its satellite towns. The basic cause of course is our ballooning population which neutralizes any enhancement or up gradation in public utility services. Chandigarh’s special status may soon vanish unless we take effective measures to keep its landmark status afloat.

Monday, October 31, 2011

AUTUMN IS IN THE AIR


Though October has bidden us farewell, autumn is yet far away from its prime and is slowly opening its gate to allow us to step on its threshold to welcome its blazing beauty. It is a season which is sandwiched between two harsh entities, sapping summer and unyielding winter, and that is why it enjoys a special place because of its mellowness and its wholesome weather. Frustrated by the sweltering heat, sticky and stifling climate of the long summers, autumn mercifully brings a respite with its breezy coolness and restores the mental and physical balance. Albert Camus paying a tribute to the beauty of autumn quips, “Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.”

This is a season which is nature lovers’ delight. The riot of colour enshrined in various aspects of the deciduous trees, remind you of the images which you’ve formed of Garden of Eden inhabited by Adam and Eve before their banishment from the heavenly abode.

The shedding of leaves in their magnificent glory of red, orange, yellow and deep maroon all around us, provide not only a breathtaking delight but elevates as well as overawes in terms of discipline it follows and munificence it grants, us mortals, who have almost forgotten about the blessedness of nature because it comes to us gratuitously. In John Keats “Ode to Autumn” there is a windfall of autumnal imagery, painting its exceptional gifts in words.


Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;

I recall the exotic presentation of nature’s extravaganza on both sides of the high way, when autumn was in its youthful splendour and we were driving from Philadelphia to New York a few years back. The scene is permanently carved in my memory for its picture perfect kaleidoscope of fantastic hues to draw inspiration there from.
Autumn symbolizes the continuity of the flow of life in its many avatars. At the moment, leave shedding is sparse, even when it catches on, lots of green will stay put for some time allowing two faces of the natural phenomenon to co-exist. The parts which make the whole will keep on overlapping its boundaries, manifesting nature’s mysteries which of course we’d never comprehend. As with nature, so it is true of life itself, wherein past, present and future have never an absolute break.

I’ll end with a beautiful quote from George Eliot: Delicious autumn! My soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Almonds: A Reservoir of Nutrients


Dear friends, I find almonds  to be a reservoir of the best nutrients needed for the human body, therefore I'm sharing  a few accepted truths with you.
Almonds are wonder nuts, packed as they’re with all the essential vitamins and minerals, required for a healthy body. They’re loaded with energy and vitality boosting proteins, dietary fiber which helps to lower cholesterol and vitamin ‘E’ a powerful antioxidant, considered to help prevent the accumulation of plaque in the arteries, improves the skin tone and texture  and slows down the aging process.
Calcium in almonds strengthens and maintains bone health and is essential for growing children, pregnant, lactating and menopausal women.
Almonds are of two distinct varieties, sweet and bitter. Sweet are the edible ones that are eaten as nuts and are used in bakery products, to garnish puddings and desserts, in soups, in salads, in ice creams and are eaten as such as a wholesome fulfilling snack. The oil of bitter almonds is used in the manufacture of flavouring extracts and for therapeutic medicines.
In the present day hectic life style, one must devise ways and means to include them into daily food pyramid. Why not stash a handful (about 20) of them in a container in your car or in your purse and munch them on your way or keep them in a drawer in your work place and enjoy as a snack. While on a long walk, a handful of almonds will sustain you and keep you satiated.
The catch is: Chew, chew and chew, for proper absorption and to derive the maximum benefit.
At home sprinkle whole or sliced almonds on your oatmeal, wheat porridge, pan cake batter or mix powdered almonds in a glass of hot milk or make a cold beverage by blending it with milk and ice cubes. The older people with dental problems can refrigerate the powered almonds and use them in the above stated manner.
You can soak them in purified water overnight and consume them by removing the skin, together with raisins or sultanas (both store house of minerals). It’d take care of constipation and cleanse the system. Substitute almond butter for other spreads on toasts.
Almond oil is used for body massage to improve blood circulation, restore vitality and well being and ameliorate aches and pains. Hair massage before washing prevents dandruff and hair loss and gives hair a lustrous shine.
In India mothers after delivery are feted with a preparation made of roasted wheat flour, pure ghee(for lubricating the intestines) dry ginger powder, ground aniseed seeds, raisins, sugar and lots of almonds , whole or sliced, for at least forty days to replenish her body, to  enable her to take care of the baby and  household duties.
In summers, almonds should be stored in the refrigerator for preventing them from going rancid. Even otherwise they should be kept in air tight containers in a cool,dry place.
With such immense health benefits almonds should find a special place in our daily meal plans.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

DIWALI GREETINGS

My dear blog friends,

I cherish your unseen presence and your visits to my blog. I wish you all a very happy Diwali!!! It is a gala day for all Indians here as well as for those living offshore. It is actually a festival of lights signifying a victory over evil and shadows of darkness. It ushers in a spirit of hope, prosperity and well being.


Preparations for Diwali celebrations begin well in advance in every household. There is a spree for sprucing up the house, garden and surroundings. People get their houses painted or white washed a fresh, every nook and corner is dusted clean, metal decoration pieces are polished and furniture items are wiped smooth with cotton rags, giving them a bright sheen and an inviting look. Besides, people spend time brightening up their houses with new vibrant upholstery for a festive makeover. Gifting clothes and other items to servants and the needy is also a part of the spirit of magnanimity associated with the festival. All this and much more is gone through to propitiate the goddess of wealth to visit and shower her benedictions.

People install electric string lights on the parapets of the roofs. (My husband and I did the job yesterday.) The sights of these multi-coloured twinkling lights transport you to a state of supreme joy and you feel like exclaiming, “Oh! To be alive and kicking at such a moment is, what life is all about !!!" : )

The festival season is auspicious for shopping, be it splurging on new clothes, buying pieces of jewellery or consumer goods and, it also allows you to indulge in pleasing your sweet tooth. I for one however, don’t opt for these luxuries any more, because wearing gold ornaments is not safe now and I’ve enough of dresses stuffed in the cupboards which cry for a body and plenty of sun and air. This is me stupid and needs ignoring.

In the evening after the sun sets, the traditional part of the festival starts. Candles and earthen oil lamps are lit and placed at vantage points i.e.on the boundary walls ,backyards and other forgotten parts of the house. Offerings of sweets and fruit are made at religious places of one’s faith and few candles are lit in the compound there. Back home to witness and hear all round firework displays, deafening noise of the bursting of crackers and blinding smoke which go on till late at night.

The upbeat mood lingers on refusing to fall back into the same old routine for some time more.

Fantasizing Is a Boon


Fantasizing takes us on a flight of fancy to a dream world of make believe and idealism. How wonderful that nature has bestowed on us the ability to make rosy pictures in the mind’s eye and the subsequent ecstasy, buoyancy and inspiration -the by products- can lead to wholesome brainstorming. Isn’t it magical that man’s grey cells can visualize beyond the substantiality of the present to another realm composed of pure thought? The ideas of all great inventions of the world germinated in the intellect of men with exceptional visionary abilities. Scientific discoveries are as much based on hypotheses as on observation and experiment, which ignite the thought process to action in the first place.

This capacity alone awards man the numero uno position amongst God’s creations.

Researchers maintain that even animals day dream in a limited way. Actually a healthy person’s mind is a reservoir of prolific original buds of conceptions, which if given an impetus can flower into something seminal. In everyday life situations, fantasizing about an important upcoming event, results in creative and better planning of it and things will fall in place saving time and energy.

Just think of the success of pure fantasy 'Star War Series' a couple of decades back which thrilled millions of viewers and fired the imagination of generation X while providing entertainment to the core. Very recently the Sci- fic 'Avatar' earned world wide acclaim for its highly innovative plot. If it is not a fantasy then what it is?!!!

During the darkest moments in the journey of life, a make believe dialogue session with an entity or image of your faith provides a lot of solace and peace of mind. I derive comfort by reliving the sweet memories of my mother. The experience grants me reassurance and restores my energy levels to take on the world afresh.

However there is also the dark side to it. Some people become so obsessed with day dreaming that they lose grip on reality and slide into a psychic abyss. Some indulge in sexual fantasies which ruin their family life and result in divorces

Some start fantasizing about unachievable goals and become passive, waiting for some miracle to happen to catapult them to that position and fall prey to depression and manifold psychological problems, when things do not happen according to their wishes.

In totality, this is an invaluable gift of God to mankind. It sharpens human intellect and feeds thinking prowess which can devise ways and means for the betterment of humanity. It, indeed, is a remarkable boon!!!



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mother: My Soul Curry


Mother played a seminal role in shaping my character by inspiring me to imbibe values, which worked hugely well for me in the face of life’s challenges.

Early days of her married life were tough, being a part of the joint family. Most of the time my grandparents did not allow my father- who was in the army- to take her along with him. Because of her tender age and naivety she did not react initially and suffered stoically. Soon she had to assert herself strongly and a small house was constructed in a short time by my father. Living separately gave her confidence and resurrected her dormant qualities. She became a sort of an activist, instructing village women in making pickles, sweets, and taught sewing, crocheting and other household skills.

Later when I grew up she would bare her heart out, narrating the traumatic experiences of her early married life, which would get triggered off and on. Tears would roll down my eyes and hers and we would cry together for hours-cementing a mother daughter bond. Even after my marriage, on short visits to her, the scene was repeated many times leading to a type of Cathartic effect on both of us.

Strangely enough after each visit, a ripple of deep tenderness and gratefulness for her would start flowing in my being, thinking of her sacred and unconditional love for me and my family. Now whenever I look at her photograph (my parents’ pictures adorn my bedroom) I experience a profound emotional connect as well as a blessed feeling of her protective presence.

Mother remained my confidante, counsellor, well wisher and above all my soul curry, throughout her life. There was an intense and steely bonding and an unstated understanding between the two of us. Her face would light up to see me whenever we visited her and I would feel totally relaxed and heavenly.

I always marvelled at her courage, honesty and fearlessness in everyday life situations. She was religious and traditional too and would prepare halwa ( parsad) on birth anniversaries of our Gurus and special dishes on festivals. She was God fearing and stuck to a fixed schedule for morning and evening prayers all her life. As a young girl I imbibed it all, including her exceptional culinary skills.

I recall an incident, which for ever impacted my perspective towards life. I had been married for many years when a trying situation made me very vulnerable and depressed. I could not help shooting a letter to her about my predicament. When I met her she said somewhat reproachfully, “Nothing stays for ever, good or bad and one must always adapt oneself to the changing circumstances”. This statement I knew was the distillation of her vast experiences, which held a mirror to life. Whenever I was facing a difficult situation, the memory of that incident steered me in the right direction.

Mother was inimical to vanity and hypocrisy and would not stand people who blew their own trumpet. Such people respected her and were a little in awe of her, no nonsense nature.

Another incident which taught me to be humble and grounded always is the one when we shifted to our newly built house and she visited us bringing sweets and gifts. We were showing her around and I playfully uttered “Do you like our house Ma?” She lovingly put her hand on my shoulder and softly whispered so that no one else may hear it, “Yes it is beautiful, but it is a gift of the Almighty to you all, so be grateful for His blessings.”

She remained my anchor and my pole star throughout. Her sweet memories and her simple lessons will forever stay fresh in my mind. ‘Ma I salute you and thank you a million times wherever you are!’







Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Of Poets and Poetry

Poets are exquisitely gifted individuals. They are endowed with sharp sensitivities and sensibilities. None can match their keen observation, their depth of feelings, their intensity of responses to the world around, and their power to evoke images through “vividness of narrative and minuteness of detail” which mesmerize the readers. Aristotle in his Poetics asserts ‘the poet disengages himself from the material needs’ and “expresses the universal – the permanent possibilities of human nature.”

A poet is a magician with words. He connotes the meaning of words by conceptulising them. He threads words into pearls of muse and fashions a pleasurable experience with the power of heightened imagination. The poet surpasses reality by presenting it as a coherent and reasonable portrayal of life’s higher goals. He purifies it “from the dross which always mingles with empirical reality.” and elevates it to a high pedestal taking us along with him like a magnet. The paradigm of human emotions of love, tenderness, beauty, separation and betrayal are a part of a poet’s primary assumptions. He builds his own environment where he recreates them, so subtly and skillfully as to leave us spellbound.

Let me share with you briefly my impressions and appreciation of a few wonderful poems by English Romantic Poets which I enjoyed as a student and later as a teacher.

The foremost among them is William Wordsworth. Whosoever is an aficionado of poetry is drawn irresistibly to the naturalness and earthiness of his poetry as he picks themes from real life and invests them with grandeur and poetic wonder which moves you to a state of exaltation and pure joy. For Wordsworth “poetry is emotions recollected in tranquility.” His poems “The Daffodils” and ‘The Solitary Reaper’ exemplify his assertion beautifully. While on a walk he is so enthralled by the beauty of the daffodils growing on the bank of a river and the scene gets etched in his mind’s eye and he pours it out so lyrically and rhythmically when alone in his room. The first stanza says a lot about the wonderment of natural beauty:
I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
The Solitary Reaper’s singing influences him deeply and gives wings to his imagination. He makes ample use of imagery to lend a philosophic and mystic touch to the poem and takes the reader along while conjecturing about the theme of the song.
Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary highland lass!
Reaping and singing by herself,
Stop here or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and bind the grain.
O listen! For the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.
By the use of metaphor and similes he elevates a concrete reality into an artistic creation of unparalleled beauty.

Shelley in 'Ode to West Wind’ addresses the west wind which is associated with autumn. He goes imaginatively lyrical as the poem progresses, personifying it in so many ways and pouring his heart out to it. He implores it to help him overcome his inertia and bless him with courage and freedom to express his deepest longings. The poem ends on a note of optimism though, with the proverbial line: ‘If winter comes, can spring be far behind?’
O Wild West Wind,
Thou breath of autumn’s being...

Oh lift me as a wave, a leaf a cloud,
I fall upon the thorns of life, I bleed.
John Keats the last of the romantics was a self-taught genius. His poem ‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever’ is an expression of his love for beauty, the power of the word and has eye for colour and detail. He feels overwhelmed with the assuaging capacity of nature’s blessings and maintains that in spite of despondence, sorrows and melancholy associated with life, nature shelters us with its abundant benedictions. The poem embodies the universal truth of nature’s balancing effect on our lives. Keats' thought process goes much beyond the ordinariness of existence to reach the zenith of aesthetic pleasure.
'A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.'

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Recounting a Childhood Memory

There are some childhood memories which leave an indelible imprint on your psyche. These remain ensconced in the subconscious and resurface whenever triggered. One such memory which is still fresh in my mind happened a long, long time back and it tells a lot about me as a child.

When I was a toddler I was only interested in playing, playing and more playing. First four years of my life were spent in my father’s village. He was in the army and most of the time away from home. Mother had to stay near the extended family. Mother used to tell me, “You were so active that by ten months you had already started walking and while in the crawling stage you would even cross street drains to reach at your aunt’s courtyard where all the children would assemble to play. You would sit in the middle of the circle of children and would keep clapping, amusing one and all.”

As I grew a bit more, my penchant for playing intensified. There was an incident peculiar to me and worth penning down for its quirky aspect and incidentally was the outcome of my obsession for playing.

I was about five and by this time we had shifted to the city. Much against my opposition and in spite of my howling and tantrums, I was admitted to a school. I cried every morning because I was afraid of the maid (she was coal dark and one eyed) who chaperoned me for a few days. However after the initial hiccups I made many friends and was very happy.

One day it so happened, that instead of going straight home after school hours, I was tempted to accompany my friend to her house for more playing. We busied ourselves with one thing or the other. Her mother surprisingly did not object at all. On the other side hell broke loose in my house. (I could fathom the gravity when I grew up.) My parents had searched everywhere, the school its vicinity and made all enquiries. They were imagining the worst. As a last resort they hired a drummer who went from street to street announcing the lost child’s description, asking people if they had seen her somewhere.

The irony of ironies is that the drummer also came to the street where I was playing with my friend. She called me saying, “Look who is there.” We curiously peeked out of the window and that was all. So engrossed were we in our games. Her mother did not pay any attention either. At last it was quite late in the evening; hungry and tired I was homeward bound. As soon as I stepped into the yard of my house, I saw through the open door so many ladies surrounding my mother who was in tears. (This scene I still recall very vividly). I don’t know how at that tender age things became crystal clear to me in a second. I ran to my mother and holding her tightly started howling at the top of my voice. Ladies dispersed immediately. Nobody said a word. I was too young to be reprimanded and what I could gather was an immense sense of relief on my parents' faces.



Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Socialization Modern Style

 The dictionary meaning of socialization seems to have undergone a sea change. It is no longer sitting together to have a healthy exchange of views amongst members of a community, but mindless babble deafening the ears, or a race for one-upmanship. The other day while ruminating over a few existential matters, sitting in the lawn, I was joined by two ladies. Needless to say they belonged to the neighborhood of my second ‘home’. One of them complimented me on my dress, but the other completely ignored it, so much so that a sullen expression momentarily crossed her visage. The problem is that she has an inflated opinion about herself in everything and keeps on flaunting it all the time, to the muted chagrin of almost all her listeners except of course the other lady who outwits her in garrulity .Though I had experienced their chattiness before but that day it was a different ball game altogether and I was not prepared for a double assault. Trepidation broke loose in my being at the prospect of facing their verbal attack all alone.

Luck was not favoring me that day. After seating themselves comfortably in their chairs, they started articulating their stream of consciousness at break neck speed. The customary necessity of even a smile or a nod from the listener was not considered by them. Blow after blow of cacophonic hammering on my temples from either side left me literally gasping for breath. For them I was not even a mere presence but a thing to be trampled on with their verbosity. My nerves were on edge as they continued their harangue ad nauseam. The blah blah ranged from the likes and dislikes of their husbands and their grandchildren, to pet dogs and their fussy eating habits, to pet bunnies with their ubiquitous burrows and unending litters, to pet parrots and other canary birds. The talk also covered kitchen gardens and the upkeep of their sprawling lawns in their first homes, birth and wedding anniversaries of their kith and kin and a lot more. Why did they go on and on- though linguists rue the inadequacy of language-(pun intended) unveiling their private lives and the inanities of their existence was inexplicable? They were vying with each other to speak and tried all the time to drown each other’s voice by raising voice decibel.

I do have encountered such annoyances previously in my community but what perplexes me is the dumbness of those who continue to exploit your good manners without realizing, what a pain they are with their unceasing chatter!

Apparently such people naively think they impress their listeners but are oblivious of the fact that their listeners get too tired even to make an effort to say a word edge ways. Thus instead of a meaningful dialogue there is a frustrating monologue and none is any wiser for that. The above appraisal may be a little harsh but nonetheless it is true.

There is another type of extreme narrative in Aldous Huxley’s novel ‘Brave New World’ (a negative utopia) peopled with totally predictable gammas, betas and epsilons. Where emotions are a taboo, thinking is a disease, private life is extinct, and promiscuity is a norm. No conversations take place.Vocabulary is reduced to a few hundred words and nuances of meaning have been abolished e.g. opposite of good is ungood. The life of these emotionless people is governed by a few slogans which are ingrained into their systems from birth itself. A sample: ‘Ending is better than mending’ meant to promote consumerism.

Can’t we as thinking beings envisage a world and also make it happen, which follows a middle path between these two extremes? Only then, our disenchantment and cynicism will give place to  productive inter- relatedness, which will elevate the participants and restore their dignity.

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Dear friends: Your comments are solicited.



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wrapping Up September



Hello friends, I’ve tried to weave the month of September in the tapestry of words based on my observations of life and landscape around me.

September ushered itself on a very dismal note. Today is 1st and weather wise terribly hot, humid and suffocating. While supervising the maid my body got bathed in buckets of sweat which poured out of the skin in a continuous flow. Later a soaking bath in cold water and OMG! what a relief it was. I hope after a fortnight into September, we’ll have a semblance of normalcy in our lives. The searing heat and stifling humidity of the last two months have depleted our energies leaving us limp and listless. The AC helps to bear it but the onslaught of the cold wind directly, leaves our joints and limbs stiff and painful.

On the political front disturbing trends are looming large. The three assassins of Rajiv Gandhi(our former P.M) who were sentenced to death by the Apex court and whose mercy petition is rejected by the president were scheduled to be executed shortly but the Tamil Nadu Assembly through a resolution passed unanimously requested the Supreme Court to commute their death sentence into life sentence. It may set a wrong precedent as the sanctity of the judicial process may be undermined.

Good news on the stock market. It has gone up after Anna’s anti-corruption movement’s Jan Lokpal bill got tabled in parliament after colossal flip flops by the ruling party and indecisiveness of the opposition parties. Anna’s fast, generated a popular upsurge that has shaken the country out of a self imposed deep slumber and kindled a light of hope for India’s teeming millions.

2nd September: God’s mercy came through a substantial downpour in the afternoon bringing down levels of humidity. I saw half a dozen larks and a crested sparrow pecking for insects and worms in my back lawn.

The Delhi blast outside the High court has shaken our faith in the ability of the Govt. to ensure safety of its citizens. The repeated terrorists’ attacks have demoralized the people..

The world remembered the holocaust of nine eleven on its 10th anniversary and realized once again how the world has changed during the intervening period. All of us have become slightly paranoid. A memorial in the memory of those who lost their lives was unveiled at ground zero in New York

Today 14th September, There is no respite from the clammy and sticky heat .Evenings are the worst as the temperature rises. Hoping and praying for some benedictions from the weather Gods above.

During the past week there was substantial rainfall and we’re feeling relieved and trying to make up for the lost hours due to heat.

An earthquake in and around Sikkim caused immense death, destruction and misery.

The morning walk is on but shopping is still kept in abeyance.

22nd September: The 2G spectrum scam is back in the limelight. The stock market crashed here and all over the world .It does not portent well for the world economy. The weather is changing at a snail’s pace, however mornings and evenings are turning pleasant. All over the world, politically, socially and economically things are not looking up. There is widespread unrest. What we need is a clean and just political class. Buddha said:


‘Be ye lamps unto yourselves.
Be your own reliance.
Hold to the truth within yourselves
as to the only lamp.’

Pl. post a comment.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Magical Morning Juxtaposed with Worldliness



  It has been raining for forty eight hours now with sporadic stops. It is 7.30 A.M and I’m sitting in the back verandah of my house trying to soak in the aftermath of incessant rain. The sky is still covered with white clouds. My eyes survey the scene around. In front of me on the clothes line, water droplets are seen suspended totally intact. I squint my eyes and look at them with a new perception. Lo, they look like pearl drops embellishing a lassie’s tender earlobes. On my left is the Neem, absolutely saturated and exhibiting its majestic stature while its twigs are swinging mildly in the gentle morning breeze. During monsoon its leaves put on a dark green healthy elegance soothing the onlookers’ nerves and its torso becomes filled up with the sheen of green.

  Slowly the velocity of the wind is rising, cooling the environment further. The vigour of the swinging movement of the Neem branches is steadily growing. A pair of parrots came in the range of my vision flying in Milkha Singh’s sprint speed. I can see a crow wet to the bones and its neck lazily resting on its limp body perched on the parapet of the house in front. On the ground my mint bed gives a fresh appearance though it got a belated pruning. Tulsi plants look a bit unruly and are crying for some attention from their host i.e. poor me. Actually these are smarting under the weight of unregulated growth and lack of proper shearing on time. (My gardener neglected his duties in our absence.)

  In the background I can hear the TV commentary on the events taking place in historic Red Fort grounds in Delhi; the unfurling of the flag and various other ceremonies in connection with our 65th Independence Day on 15th August. On the road across vehicular traffic is gaining momentum. A neighbour’s dog has started its demanding bark. May be it is asking to be taken for its morning stroll which is delayed by its master. The vegetable vendor is already hawking his wares. These worldly noises ended abruptly my magic moments of serene interaction with nature.

  I’m not going inside to watch the predictable stuff on the TV. I’ve seen it year after year….I feel like ruminating on the loves of my life on this Independence Day. I’m proud of my country. I love every blade of its grass, every petal of its flowers, every leaf of its trees, every rock on its hills, every drop of the water in its ponds, lakes, rivulets, canals, streams, rivers and its vast seas; its rich culture, its numerous languages, its Vedas, Scriptures and all other religious books, its philosophers and great men and its smiling citizenry in spite of being crushed under elephantine problems.

  But there are things which gnaw my conscience. My helplessness alarms me. Where are we heading for, with the creeping cynicism, disillusionment and frustration of our times? Yes! I’m not going inside to listen to the blah, blah, blah!!! Rather I'll sit out and contemplate.

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I wrote it on 15th August but'm posting it today.



The Golden Memories of My Dear Father



  About half a century back I was half way into my teens when one Sunday morning my mother asked me to tidy up an almirah. I began the project little knowing that a wonderful surprise was there, waiting for me! Buried under the tightly folded bed sheets, ‘What did I come upon?’ a framed group photograph of my dear father. It was that of the hockey team of his regiment. He had served in the Indian Army- Ex4/12 Frontier Force&5/14 Punjab Regiment which fought the Japanese in the jungles of Burma during Second World War. Here was a strapping young man in his twenties, with deep set sharp eyes, and confidence exuding from every limb of his body. The erect posture, smart bearing with a hockey stick poised under the palms of his hands, he stood tall on the left side corner of the photograph. The picture mesmerized me and my heart swelled with pride. I saw my father in an entirely new avatar of a strikingly handsome young man.

  Even before this discovery a special bonding existed between the two of us. From that day onwards my attraction for him acquired a new intensity. He became my hero and I his darling fan. I started observing him keenly. His meticulous habits and loving disposition drew me towards him, in turn shaping my character over the years. The rules which he set for himself and others in the family became milestones in the development of my personality and indelible part of my super ego. I constantly endeavoured to do something good to please him and he reciprocated very warmly. In the backdrop of it all, there was always the secret charm of the photograph to uplift me, to goad me, to do better always.

  True to his army background he was a disciplinarian but underneath that exterior breathed the kindest man I have ever met. There was some magnetic sweetness about him which commanded instant respect. He desired from the core of his heart that I develop good habits and be successful in life. To that end he also encouraged me to learn household tasks and would praise every little bit I achieved in that sphere. Some times when I balked he would lovingly remark, “You should learn all the skills which are required to run a household well.” “Yes dad you could not have been more right. Your insistence proved to be a great blessing in my life later on.”

  He imbibed in me the spirit of pride in learning to do things with one’s hands. As a young girl though too busy in my own world, I still recall fleeting glimpses of him helping and instructing the gardener in hoeing and sowing in our kitchen garden. I can still relive the taste of juicy radishes, sweet and fresh carrots and mustard greens, for preparing sag in winters, the handiwork of my father’s efforts. That scene continually flits before my mind’s eye whenever I supervise my gardener and I silently thank dad for passing his love of nature and gardening on to me.

  He was generous and truthful to a fault. In times of natural calamities he would set aside a sum of money to be sent for the relief fund. His life personified simple living; sans pretensions of any kind. Being inimical to inane talk he disliked arguing for the sake of one-upmanship. In such situations he would prefer to leave rather than express displeasure. I learnt the great lessons of life by observing him practice the things he valued.

  My dad loved seasonal delicacies and good food enormously. Preparing Alsi (flaxseed) pinnies in winter was a regular feature in our house. He would gladly procure the provisions and help mother whole heartedly in all the steps of the process of making. A tin full of the delicious stuff was always reserved for me.

  Being the son of the soil ,he collaborated with a friend and tried his hand at mechanized farming in U.P. in the early sixties, winning many prizes for the quality of the wheat grain produced in the farm.

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   I was plunged into deep sorrow when he passed away suddenly after a brief illness. A few days before he embarked on his final journey; he fell sick and was hospitalized. Some tests were done and he looked very fatigued. I was alone with him. I tried to comfort him and all of a sudden he looked at me, there were tears in his eyes. My father, who could move mountains and had enjoyed perfect health all along, was feeling helpless like a child. I felt choked with a lump in my throat. I wanted to hug him tightly and tell him how much I loved him and that he would be well again. But the flood of emotions incapacitated me and I stood their rooted to the ground like a statue. The moment passed!

  So many times my father has figured in my dreams standing there watching over me, exhorting me to take heart and pursue my goals. The image is a precious souvenir, a reminder of the unique relationship which a father and a daughter shared with each other.

Dear friends, please post your special memories in the comments section below.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Life- A Master-Plan of Ambivalence



Wherever you go your mental baggage overshadows you. To escape the heat of the plains you rush to your temporary abode in the hills and life’s hassles are transported with you there. Life is cool but not always calm and quiet. In India you may go anywhere and can hardly find an untrodden path. Sea of humanity chases you everywhere. A few minutes of uninterrupted solitude for a rendezvous with your own self in the form of introspection, meditation or a soliloquy is a luxury you yearn for. You seek to interiorize within to make some sense of running around in the midst of inscrutable hullabaloo and maddening distractions. But is there any escape out of this maze of life’s ‘givens’- the name ‘existentialists ‘give to the things on which we’ve little control?

Then there is the other side of the same coin which exhorts you to seize the moment. Life is packed in moments; enjoy the exuberance of those transitory moments which make you soar in the sky by giving you imaginary wings of which dreams are made of. Time is fleeting; the darkness on the other side follows you like a shadow. Brooding and wining won’t take you anywhere. Wishing wells are for those who act and not for those who decry their fate and wallow in inertia. Flex your muscles and make grass greener wherever you go.

The truth is that, duality is juxtaposed inherently in our existence. Happiness is insignificant without pain or sorrow. A paradigm of opposites flows side by side.

Therefore let’s not allow joyful moments pass by unnoticed. Let’s drink life to the lees like Homer’s ‘Ulysses.’ Thomas Hardy’s classic statement in his ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ sums up the reality of life that, “Happiness is an occasional episode in the general drama of pain.”

Life’s joys are akin to a spider’s web so marvellous, intricate and ethereal which appears like magic on a special morning and disappears as suddenly. Likewise life springs surprises here and there to keep us beguiled. Indeed the show has to go on. Sagacity demands not to go over the top, rather try to take things easy.

Accept that uncertainties are embedded in the tapestry of our life. These are there to pose challenges and keep us grounded and pliable. Flow with the waves of time and don’t push too hard, is the lesson worth contemplating.

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Dear friends: What do you think of life? Please comment.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Portrait of a Farmers' Market

A farmers' market presents a colourful and pulsating microcosm of life every Saturday, where about we live. The market with which I am going to familiarize you with is held at a place (a spacious plot of land) where it can cater to all three urban estates and other adjoining areas. Men, women and children converge here in great numbers as a part of their Saturday routine. No kidding, it is actually a unique version of a departmental store. Though ostensibly, it is meant to be a weekly vegetable market but it is this and much more. It is somewhat like the fly markets in the West, minus the presence of antiques.
The shopkeepers start opening their sacks and fruit sellers, their card board boxes and spread their wares on the ground and on their handcarts (rehris ) around mid day. The customers slowly begin trickling in. The whole area becomes abuzz with human activity as the day progresses. Here and there people are seen haggling over prices. Women even kneel down to select best pieces. Men follow their women carrying bags overflowing with vegetables.
This place is truly a social and economic leveler. There are no class distinctions here. All classes of people frequent this place. The poorest of the poor rub shoulders with the high and the mighty. The sight of mounds of fresh vegetables that too at competitive rates is too tempting to be resisted. Somebody who visits it once will visit it often. The choice available is immense. It provides a double edged pleasure, shopping as well as an outing. For the shoppers at the lower rung of the economic ladder, it provides a much needed change and opportunity for eating out. Hand held carts are lined on one side dishing out assorted popular snacks like channa bathuras, aloo tiki burgers, chaat masala and gol guppas.
On one side there are improvised open sheds displaying an ample variety of household plastic goods, you name it and they have it. You can pick any and that too at a bargain price. Though I think the quality is suspect. There is galore of cheap ceramic mugs and other stuff and also a plethora of readymade garments for children and men. While taking a round I spy an exclusive corner for ladies apparel too, doing brisk business selling anything from bras to panties, slips, shawls, dupattas and what not. It is a wonderful mini market catering to a particular segment of society in full measure. One can even purchase pulses and condiments. There are also hawkers selling wooden spoons, ladles, churners; iron griddles, sieves with wooden frames, chhapati boards and rolling pins et al. Garden tools made by village carpenters also find their place here.
Apart from these, there are other star attractions also. The pop corn seller places his push cart at a vantage point where he can tempt children accompanying their parents. So many times I give in to the mouth watering pearly white corns and buy some to munch while driving home after grocery shopping. The groundnut seller also vies for your attention with his mound of groundnuts topped with a charcoal burning small earthen pot. The typical smell of roasted groundnut wholes beckon you and you end up buying some. Not to be left behind is the sugarcane juice seller. The business is manned by two people, one squeezes the cane in their old style machine and the other dispenses the juice with alacrity in the narrow long glasses with a squeeze of a lemon wedge and a dash of rock salt. It must be delicious enough to draw many as I always see people thronging the place.
As the day draws to its end the rush multiplies and there is so much buzzing around that it is an effort to be heard in the din of human voices. The hawkers reduce rates of vegetables to wind up before it is dark.
Contrary to the stated purpose of holding these weekly markets i.e. to eliminate the middle man between the actual producer and the customer, we find few genuine farmers present here. Those who do come bring their produce mainly vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, carrots and radishes in their tractor trolleys but most of the sellers buy the vegetables from the main market of the town in large quantities and make good profit because of the heavy sales and zero wastage. And they are able to sell even to the last kilo, as at the late hour, the labour force descend on it and take home the left overs at throw away prices. Everybody goes home satisfied and happy; buyers with loads of vegetables and an entertaining outing, hawkers with pockets stuffed with lucre.
This merry-go-round of motley human landscape gives a peek into the evolving and burgeoning India. It is also a metaphor of the growing socio-economic panorama of emerging India. It sweeps away the cynicism which we often feel these days and gives hope that India would surge ahead in spite of massive road blocks now and then.

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Dear friends, you're welcome to express your views on the subject by posting a comment.



Saturday, September 24, 2011

Amber Visits Her Grandparents

Our cherubic grand-daughter, Amber visited us recently with her parents, affording us tremendous pleasure and joy. The moment she stepped into our house, her spontaneous exclamation with arms raised upwards was, “Nanu, such a big house! It is so nice.” We felt overjoyed at that endearing and cute gesture. Later her innocent prattle created an ambience of mirth and brought out spontaneous giggles from us all.
During her stay she climbed the stairs umpteen times to the roof and leaned over the parapet to talk to us down in the lawn, stomped over the fallen dry Neem (its branches cover a part of our roof) leaves, enjoying the rustling sound. I was reminded of Maria of ‘The Sound of Music”, when I saw Amber romping around a la squirrel (I‘ve befriended many in a nearby park) the whole day without taking a minute’s rest. She is vivacious like a bunny and capricious like a queen. One moment she was frolicsome and the next throwing tantrums to have her way. Bringing her round with some smart alternative offer was no mean task. The other day she saw me using Vaseline on my lips and asked immediately, “What are you doing?” I replied, “My lips get dry and I apply it to moisturize them.” After that her lips were getting dry every five minutes till I removed the jar from the dressing table and hid it.
Another day when I agreed to cook noodles –her favorite- for her, she became so excited and thrilled that she ran to me and while enveloping my legs in her tiny arms remarked, “You are the best, Nani Ma!” I bent down and hugged her tightly, brimming with delight which was all mine.
A unique persona she has even at this tender age of five. Nature truly has spent time in sculpting her body and mind. She is fairly tall, delicately built and has a sweet singing voice. She speaks only English but hummed the crazy song, ‘muni badnam hui darling tere liye’ in her own inimitable style. The beat tickled her. She is all girl - wears only matching tights and the likes with her frocks, no trousers for her. Gifted as she is with excellent features, light brown silky hair, a peach and butter complexion, perfect articulation and communication skills; it is a treat to be in her company. You better hear her to believe the exactness of her expression. On a walk with me she saw a dog with a hurt leg on the road and exclaimed, “Nani Ma look, look over there, the black dog is hopping on its three legs!”
Affection flows from her being like ripples in a water body. The absolute genuineness of her love for you is palpable from her body language. We were seeing them off at our gate at the end of their visit and after the usual hugs and hand shakes they were finally seated in the van, when I saw Amber trying to open the door. Her mom helped her and Amber stood in the door shouting, “Nanu, Nani Ma I want to kiss you”. And we were blessed with those sweet parting kisses of hers and were touched by her sensitivity and sensibility. I am sure Amber is going to forget all this but for us her grandparents, the memories of her visit are etched in our imagination and would be frequently relived in the days to come. We wish and pray that Amber grows to be an accomplished young lady, and make us proud!!! :-)







Wednesday, September 21, 2011

WHY SHOULD YOU WATCH T V?

Gone are the days when TV watching was a stress buster and helped one to relax after day’s work over a cup of tea, coffee or a glass of wine. Not any more. Actually I don’t like to watch TV at all. It eats away your hours and gives you nothing in return. We’ve become skeptical about the impartiality of news channels (which were my favourites once) in reporting news. To get enlightened about the happenings in the country you need to watch a channel with unbiased reporting. I don’t know if there is one. Sometimes I do watch BBC for a change.
The scenario is sickening in panel discussions. The debates have degenerated into mud slinging matches where games of one-upmanship and unbecoming pot shots are played ad nauseam. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Some like their own voice so much that they indulge in circuitous presentation and disgusting verbosity while making no point at all and compel the viewers to get up or switch off. You need to possess thick hide to sit through them. But those who’ve the patience to sit through such debates are intelligent enough to sift the grain from the chaff. They can’t be hoodwinked anymore.
About daily soaps -which are generously dished out on numerous channels- less said the better. They neither educate nor entertain. Look at the triteness of the story line and content. So regressive and obscurantist .Agreed they’ve given employment to scores of young boys and girls and oldies too. (Ammas and Dadus are in great demand!) But at what cost to the poor viewers? Marriages, Pujas, festivities at the drop of a hat, unbelievable and contrived twists and turns of the plot, extremes of emotion, devilish villains, menacing vamps and milk pure protagonists are the stuff upon which these soaps are structured.
The situations and characters in them have no semblance to reality. How ridiculous to see bejewelled women wearing shimmering sarees sleeping in their finery. Apart from conspiring against one another they’ve little else to do. For how long can you stand nauseatingly childish and repetitive fare? After watching few episodes of a select few, you declare to yourself, “Enough is enough” and bid good bye for ever. After all suffering your sanity at the altar of such tripe is no wisdom.
OMG I just forgot the so called ‘Reality Shows.’ Do they project reality? I watched the dance show where Madhuri was one of the judges. Dance performances were alright and I would say entertaining in the beginning. But the most boring part was, listening to the comments. It looked as if it was not meant to entertain but to turn the viewers into masters of the art form.(How naive!) Moreover the show morphed into circus acrobatics. There is surfeit of such shows and most are insipid and give a feeling of deja vu. And the results appear to be rigged.
The comedy platter offers a notoriously dismal stuff in place of an expected gourmet fare.The genre has lost its aesthetic vigour. The forced laughter of the judges is the last straw. The content in ‘Comedy Shows’ is disgusting, mindless, degrading and shaming our intellect. There is no comic relief worth the name. Such shows have the capacity to make dullards of us by nipping our creativity and blunting our discerning power. The more we watch such junk the less discriminatory we’d be. Someone has aptly remarked, “Television has changed a child from an irresistible force to an immovable object.”
Long back there were family serials like ‘Buniyad’ , ‘Hum Log’ and informative ones like, ‘Bharat ek Khoj’ and many more which were the darlings of the people and had authenticity and gripping story line meant to educate and enlighten. Sadly we ‘re starved of such quality products.
Our TV programmes certainly need overhauling. At present only moolah rules.

I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book (Groucho Marx).


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Dear friends, what do you think of the role of television in our lives today? Pl. give your opinion on the subject in the comments below. Thanks for coming.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Five Ways to Love and Keep Loving

We are besieged by innumerable ills. Probably, we have forgotten to love and have left it far behind in our hectic pace of life. But then aren’t we paying a heavy price for it with disintegration of life all around us? Thomas Carlyle says, “A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge” and everyone believes that love begets love. All our religious books and scriptures teach us that love is the most sacred of all emotions. It encompasses the elements of care, concern, respect and knowledge which govern all our relationships on this earth.
Now to practice and promote love that enables us to develop our innate potentialities to the maximum and contribute to the good of all, we need to assimilate a few significant character traits. Before the discussion, here is a quip.
“Learning to love, like other arts, demands practice and concentration. Even more than any other art it demands genuine insight and understanding.” Erich Fromm.
Erich Fromm in his book “The Art of Loving” discusses at length the values which if mastered will open up the possibilities for a healthy, happy and a prolific life. Here are the five tips.

1. Live a disciplined life

Discipline is liberating. It is a symbol of caring and concern for the family. Bernard L Montgomery says, “Discipline strengthens the mind so that it becomes impervious to the corroding influence of fear.”

Present day work culture however, enforces a kind of discipline which stifles but it can’t be escaped for reasons of livelihood. Outside work, as a reaction to the monotony of our jobs, we indulge in mindless fare. However sloth and laziness are enemies of love because precious time is wasted and almost nothing is achieved. In a sloppy family, procrastination rules the roost. Children’re neglected. Things don’t get done on time as the day starts almost at noon. Nobody is happy in a messed up scenario. Quarrels are a daily occurrence. Love has no chance to flower in such a chaotic environment.
On the other hand discipline is a gateway to a meaningful life. In a disciplined household every family member knows what is expected of him/ her. Tasks get accomplished in an atmosphere of cordiality and amity. Delegation and accountability ensure quality and alertness in the discharge of duties. Life is always in the act of becoming and transcending the present (to borrow the words of Existentialists). Love and cooperation carouse around freely.

2. Concentrate on your tasks

“Concentrate; put all your eggs in one basket and watch that basket.” Says Dale Carnegie the author of best seller, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”


We miserably lack this quality as we want to do multiple tasks at one go: eating, reading, drinking and watching TV at the same time. We remain distracted and fidgety and can hardly achieve any aspect of love. Charles Dickens quipped. “I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without my determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.”

Sadly we remain restless. To overcome this malaise we must take up activities like meditating, walking or gardening which can actually lead to solitude, introspection and appraisal of our actions and renewal of energy. For love to proliferate it needs nurturing and uninterrupted quality time together that are a casualty in our frantic existence. It is said, ‘If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.’

3. Exercise Patience

Isaac Newton has said, “If I have made any valuable discoveries it has been owing more to patient attention, than to any other talent.” Understandably the modern industry is based on mass production and quick results. In the race for profitability, human values have been replaced by economic values. On the contrary every fruitful action demands time and patience. Patience is a bulwark for marital stability, love and peace in the family. “Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience, impatience breeds anxiety,” says the great poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. Develop patience to do some creative work, to read a good book, to guide kids in their school work or to take up pending jobs at home.
In high voltage situations exercise of patience can save many a love.

4. Listen to each other

We generally prefer to talk rather than listen. We love to be heard. But listening to others effectively by giving your full attention enhances your own growth emotionally by cementing your bonding with others. Listening skills further your intelligence also as you can understand and know people better. Listening genuinely and with interest to your spouse, children and near and dear ones, help them to vent out their pent up feelings. It helps in averting many unfortunate situations from developing. It promotes love, trust and camaraderie.

5. Manage your time and attend to small things

Prioritize your daily activities and try to follow the schedule religiously. You’ll remain calm, and have time for exercise, attending to your children, sharing tidbits with your hubby, fixing a nutritious meal and doing small things which are not spectacular but important for the health and happiness of your family. This will automatically build a positive and loving orientation to life. Trivialities and escapist activities are shunned by a focused mind yielding to love and goodwill in abundance.

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Dear friends, share your own experiences on the subject for making life more purposeful and fulfilling by your comments.







Sunday, September 11, 2011

MY TRYST WITH NATURE BEGINS AGAIN


After a two month break - was in the hills July/August when it was searing heat and suffocating humidity in the plains- I am back in  home sweet home and  my daily tryst with nature, something which almost makes me feel  on cloud nine begins once again. Now hopefully the weather is changing for the better. In my home town Patiala my connection with nature is on a micro level. I commune with the flora and fauna of the park which is my destination for a morning walk for the moment. Why I’ve chosen this venue is due to its being at a stone’s throw from my house and secondly it is not frequented by many. I prefer to connect peacefully with the objects around.

Today (5th September) for example the birds kept me company. When I stepped in, scores of white cranes- with long black legs and yellow bills- were busy pecking in the grass for worms. I could note the change in their body language instantly. They stopped pecking and stood alert, straining their long necks for any danger signals. Satisfied that nothing is amiss and perhaps trusting me they resumed their activity, but after flying to a safer distance away from me. Then I spied a vulture overhead and sensing danger the whole lot of them flew away within seconds.

There was also a crowd of the ubiquitous larks twittering gleefully and hopping with abandon, relishing their breakfast as some of them with worms hanging from their beaks seemed to be in the look out for a secluded place to savour the delicacy. They seemed to be having a field day with short flights here and there inside the park, in search of food. Underneath the dark brown exterior their wings show white designer patches which look enchanting when they fly. I left them to their antics.

A few fish tailed blackbirds attracted my attention next as they were chasing a yellow coloured bird probably a predator in a frenzied squeaking. A lone black butterfly with speckled behind, hovered around. A couple of pigeons I spotted fluttering their feathers above the window shade of the house across the road. Overhead a foursome of parrots flew past hurriedly as if on some important mission. Perched on a high voltage wire a lonesome dove was coo cooing perhaps waiting for her partner. On a richly leafed tree a kind of warblers were having a gossip session vying with each other to keep up the crescendo.

Two black stray dogs were giving me company as well. Though I better not to have such company. One was lying in the middle of the pavement and I passed by it many times via a safe detour and the other was having a snooze under thick bushes. I was all the time conscious of their presence. The stray dog menace in spite of many tragic fallouts is here to stay. The authorities refuse to learn any lessons and pass the buck all the time. The hapless citizenry looks on.

However the creature that affords me utmost pleasure and inspiration- guess who? It is the utterly cheerful, fluffy and sprightly, squirrel. It is my all weather friend. What a designer body!!! Dark brown and silver grey stripes on the upper body and mouth and tail dons a salt and pepper coloured fur. They present a picture of endearing positivity. Pause and get treated to a live display of their capers from one tree to the other and their ease and daintiness as they cross the gaps between railing spikes around the park. Their liveliness is infectious. I enjoy watching their graceful scampering on the ground, as they forage for seeds, nuts and acorns. I sometimes ask myself, “Which setting of genes they‘ve been bestowed with by nature that makes them so carefree and happy?” We surely can learn some life lessons from them. When I return home I feel bathed in the sunshine of gaiety and mirth which my dear friends rub off on to me.

As soon as the sun shows up in its glory, these visitors leave for their shady environs. But before they do so, I too get back to my safe haven.

Dear friends: Your comments on the write ups are welcome and will be earnestly appreciated. Pl. share your own experiences.
Here is a light moment:
Mother: Please God, don't let John play the match. But if he plays, let him win.